Author: Stieg Larsson
Series: Millennium Trilogy #3
This book follows The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (#1) and The Girl Who Played With Fire (#2) of the Millenium series. It picks up where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off and Lisbeth Salander is in intensive care in the hospital with a bullet in her head following a confrontation with her father. She faces trial for murder if she recovers and risks being sentenced to jail time or worse – a lifelong sentence to a psychiatric ward. This book follows Salander as she fights for her life and innocence and as the people around her – Blomkvist, Armansky, and Holmgren – all team up to unravel the secrets surrounding the Zalachenko affair. However, when they discover each new part of the mystery they put themselves and Lisbeth into more danger, as a secret group of government officials will do anything to keep their existence secret.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest really wrapped up a lot of the mystery that that Larsson built throughout the trilogy, especially surrounding Lisbeth’s identity. I read that Stieg Larsson actually left behind an unfinished manuscript for a fourth book in the series, but I was pleased with how this one left off. Overall, this book in the trilogy was much more complex and interesting as it tied together a lot of loose ends. The mystery was captivating and surprising at every turn. However, he did not take care of all pieces of the puzzle well. Without giving too much away, a main character was murdered and the detectives spent the better part of the book searching for the murderer who went into hiding. Yet, while Larsson spends a good amount of time addressing the rest of the plot, this crucial part is forgotten about until almost the end of the book when the killer is very abruptly confronted. I was very pleased with how Larsson developed most the plot and how he solved it, but this last piece of the puzzle seemed extremely rushed and out of place.
Critique of the trilogy
I mentioned in my review of The Girl Who Played With Fire that Blomkvist’s playboy attitude annoyed me, since he lacks any strictly platonic female friends. Sure enough, this continued in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. At least his character was consistent? It mostly annoyed me because it seems so unrealistic and absurd, especially when a strong female detective becomes his latest conquest. Regardless of Blomkvist’s appeal, I find it difficult to believe that he consistently can make conquests out of every female he becomes friends with, especially since they occur in professional settings.
My largest critique of the trilogy concerns Larsson’s portrayal of women. He writes the trilogy under the premise that violence against women is wrong, women should have rights, and women can be strong people. I see how Larsson tries to make this point by having very strong, successful, and independent female characters – such as Berger, Figuerola, and of course Lisbeth Salander. However, while strong and intelligent, all of his female characters are extremely cold and calculating. They very rarely, if ever, show emotion and this is the quality that puts them on an “equal” level with men, not their intelligence or strength of character. He has taken the very things that make people human away from women in order for them to be perceived as strong. While I understand the importance of not using weak, sniveling characters or pathetic damsels in distress, I think he should have been able to show that women can indeed have emotions and operate as real human beings while still maintaining successful lives on the same level as men. Lisbeth is an exception to this, since due to trauma and apparent psychological differences she cannot experience emotion normally, but the other women are not exceptions.
“When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies, it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.” – Mikael Blomkvist